International Primate Protection League v. Institute for Behavioral Research

799 F.2d 934
Brief Filed: 1986
Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Year of Decision: 1986

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 287KB)


Whether animal rights organizations have standing to sue for custody of a laboratory under state anti-cruelty to animals

Index Topics

Animal Research; Scientific Research (animal research)


The International Primate Protection League, the Animal Law Enforcement Association, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and six individuals brought suit in federal district court to prevent the transfer of research monkeys from the NIH Animal Center back to Edward Taub and the Institute for Behavioral Research (IBR), from which they had earlier been seized. IBR was conducting deafferentation research funded by NIH. Plaintiffs charged that IBR was violating state criminal statutes requiring adequate care for animals and IBR's director was charged with animal cruelty. He was found guilty on one charge but his conviction was reversed by Maryland's highest court. During the pendency of the action against the IBR director, the primates were remanded to the custody of NIH. After conviction was reversed, the plaintiffs sought to block the return of the primates by NIH to IBR. IBR filed a motion to dismiss the action, claiming that the plaintiffs were without standing — i.e., without a legally recognizable legal interest in the primates — to sue. A U.S. magistrate and the federal district court agreed with the defendants and held that the plaintiffs had no standing, and they appealed to the U.S. District Court for the Fourth Circuit.

APA's Position

APA joined with a number of research associations in presenting a joint amicus brief, urging the court to affirm the lower court's decision. The brief argued the applicable law of standing and used the brief to educate the court as to the important accomplishments of animal research essential to the prevention, treatment and cure of diseases, and the serious, adverse consequences for researchers that would result from a decision to grant plaintiffs standing.


The Fourth Circuit unanimously agreed with amici's argument and affirmed the district court's judgment. It held that the plaintiffs lacked standing and gave considerable support to the right of researchers to conduct research, within the bounds of applicable law, with animal participants. The court wrote: "To imply a cause of action in these plaintiffs might entail serious consequences. It might open the use of animals in biomedical research to the hazards and vicissitudes of courtroom litigation. It may draw judges into the supervision and regulation of laboratory research. It might unleash a spate of private lawsuits that would impede advances made by medical [sic] science in the alleviation of human suffering. To risk consequences of this magnitude in the absence of clear direction from the Congress would be ill-advised. In fact, we are persuaded that Congress intended that the independence of medical [sic] research be respected and that administrative enforcement govern the Animal Welfare Act."